Back in July of 2019, my family and I had just moved cross-country to Massachusetts. We had moved into our apartment, but none of our stuff was there. We were sleeping on air mattresses and sitting in those cloth folding chairs that you can never get back into their flimsy, little holders. It was a stressful time, but I had something with me that first month that helped me relax. I had an ARC of Evan Winter’s The Rage of Dragons. I had won it in a giveaway hosted by Orbit on their Instagram, not knowing much about it beyond the fact that it was written by a Black man and it had dragons. So, when I picked up during that stressful first month in our new home, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the incredible story contained within those pages. I flew through that ARC and knew before I was even halfway through that I was going to give it five stars. I also knew that I would fight the demons of Ishihogo to get my hands on the sequel!
Fast forward to this past summer, when Shealea @ Caffeine Book Tours put a call out to the bookish community for people would like to be part of #TheBurningTour for The Fires of Vengeance, the sequel I was so desperate to read. I don’t think I’ve ever filled out a form so fast! And you could have knocked me over with a feather when I was selected to be a part of the tour! So, before we get into the meat of this post, I wanted to take a moment to thank Shealea @ Caffeine Book Tours and the publisher, Orbit, for this opportunity. There are also a lot of other incredible bookish content creators on this tour, as well, so click here to take a look at the schedule. Also, we might as well get some disclaimers out of the way.
First, as you’ve probably figured out, I did receive an ARC of The Fires of Vengeance from Caffeine Book Tours and Orbit in exchange for my participation in this promotional tour. Second, as this is a review for the second book in a series, there might be some slight spoilers for the content of the first book within my review. If you haven’t read The Rage of Dragons (um, why haven’t you?) and wish to, perhaps skip this post until you have. This review, however, will be spoiler free for The Fires of Vengeance. And, last, stick with me until after my review for information about an amazing giveaway 🎉🎉🎉
Alright, with all that said, let’s get to it!
“Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the ‘true’ Queen of the Omehi.
If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne and reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.”
- Author: Evan Winter
- Series: The Burning #2
- Publisher: Orbit Books
- Publication date: November 10th, 2020
- Genre: Fantasy
- Age group: Adult
- Cover artist: Karla Ortiz
- Cover designer: Lauren Panepinto
- Content/Trigger warnings: Graphic violence, depictions of death, loss, and grief, depictions of PTSD and other mental health issues, depictions of suicide/suicidal behavior, depictions of chronic pain/suffering
About the Author
Born in England to South American parents, Evan Winter was raised in Africa near the historical territory of his Xhosa ancestors. Evan has always loved fantasy novels, but when his son was born, he realised that there weren’t many epic fantasy novels featuring characters who looked like him. So, before he ran out of time, he started writing them.
My Review + Quote Graphics
This book was one of my most anticipated sequels of 2020. That being said and it being 2020, the year the just keeps on giving, I picked The Fires of Vengeance up at the height of a pretty big reading slump. Throughout the month of October, reading just couldn’t hold my interest.
That’s right. My FAVORITE HOBBY couldn’t hold my interest. I don’t know if there is any one reason I can point to that lead to this, but I do know that the general stress of living through this hell year was a big factor. My usual escape just wasn’t an escape anymore. I knew I had to read this book, though. Not only was I yearning to get back into the world, but I had an obligation. I picked it up, hoping and praying that it would be just as captivating as Evan Winter’s first book in this series, The Rage of Dragons.
Well, I’m here to say that this book cleared my skin, watered my plants, and has me T H R I V I N G. Y’all… this sequel was everything I wanted it to be and somehow, impossibly, more! We are thrown right into the action from page one, finding Tau visiting one of his sword brothers that was injured during the events at the end of the last book. As he sits there talking, he quickly recaps many of the important events in The Rage of Dragons which, holy shit, can we do that more often, please?! I love that Winter’s weaves the recap in so seamlessly with the story, making us relive Tau’s journey right alongside him and quickly lodging us back in the world of the Omehi people. But Tau’s journey has just begun. He know has to learn court politics while also trying to keep his friends alive as he tries to help Queen Tsiora quell a rebellion styling her sister as the true queen of the Omehi.
It’s incredible how quickly I was pulled into the story and I soon found myself absolutely flying through the pages. The first night I read this, I blinked and somehow over 100 pages had gone by! There is something so captivating about Winter’s writing that makes it hard to come up for air, even if you wanted to. Which, trust me, you won’t. You’ll want to stay immersed in the rich culture and narrative that the author has built for you. His world-building is top-notch and one of my favorite aspects of this story. I love when I find myself transfixed by a fictional setting and The Fires of Vengeance more than delivers!
As much as I love the world-building, though, what really makes this story shine is its characters. The depth! The emotions! The feeling like these people could climb out of the book to sit and have a conversation with you! Tau is an incredibly vivid character, with so many complexities that make him that much more compelling. He’s ruthless and brutal, but has this gentle side that very few get to see. And the depths to which he cares about his fellows… it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Y’all know that I love a book that has wonderfully crafted characters and Tau certainly doesn’t disappoint. The best part is that the other characters are just as fleshed out! We spend most of the book in Tau’s head (there are a few chapters from different perspectives, but not many), yet you come to know the others surrounding him at the same level. None of them fall flat or feel like a caricature. Honestly, I found myself wishing we did get some other perspectives because I just want to know everything about these characters I’ve come to care about so deeply.
Let’s move from the characters to talk about something else that I don’t usually focus on, but blew me away: the fight scenes. THE FIGHT SCENES! Evan Winter has a way of writing fight scenes that drops you in the middle of the action and makes you a wee bit scared for your life, tbh. They were freakin’ intense! But they also weren’t so over-written that I couldn’t follow along with the action, if that makes sense? It was easy to picture in my mind how the fight scenes would look, visually, and I think that’s a testament to a damn good story. Honestly, this entire book is so visual in it’s descriptions that it’s incredibly easy to get a picture of it if it were to, say, become a movie. HINT HINT, MOVIE EXECUTIVES!
The last thing I’ll talk about that I really enjoyed was the running theme throughout about equality. In Tau’s world, the Omehi have a very distinct class system. Nobles are “better” than Lessers and Lessers should never aspire to more than what Nobles are willing to give them. But Tau, a Lesser himself, has spent most of both book one and two proving that Nobles are worth no more or less than the people they think beneath them. I love watching him fight against a system that is inherently rigged against him. Cause, ya know, it’s something I can really relate to *stares in Black woman* Does the message get a wee bit heavy-handed at times? Ehhh… I guess? But it feels especially relevant and necessary in a time where a lot of people will respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter”. As the saying goes, all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter, and you can see some parallels with that and what Tau is trying to achieve.
I mean, mostly he just wants to murder everyone who has ever hurt someone he cares about, but the man has morals, too!
Final thoughts: It must be hard to be a perfect sequel. but The Fires of Vengeance Did That. The world-building is so immersive that you will lose hours in this story before you realize what is happening. The characters are all incredibly compelling, even the ones you might not particularly care for. The fight scenes will get your blood pumping and I love the message, as well. If you loved The Rage of Dragons, you will not be disappointed with this follow-up. Honestly, I could gush about this book for hours on end, but my fingers are getting tired and I gotta go to bed at some point! So, I want to leave you with a few quotes from the book that I really loved:
But wait, there’s more! In conjunction with this book tour, Caffeine Book Tour and Orbit Books will be giving away one (1) finished copy of both The Rage of Dragons and The Fires of Vengeance to one lucky winner! Here are the details:
- One (1) winner gets both books
- Open worldwide
- Ends on 11 November 2020 (Philippines time)
You can click this link to enter. Good luck!